Bartók’s Tabulation of Rhythmic Patterns*

Three versions of Bartók’s tabulation of rhythmic patterns have survived. The earliest version – an autograph draft – gives stanzaic and rhythmic patterns belonging to Classes B and C in a somewhat sketchy form and also not according to the final version. (In Class C, for instance, there are seven subclasses in the manuscript marked with Roman numerals, the same as in A magyar népdal).

The second version was originally the fair copy of the first (copied from Bartók’s manuscript by Ilona Rácz). Later Bartók used this copy for the elaboration of a new, revised version. On the one hand, he added the appropriate patterns of the old Class A to the rhythmic patterns of the old Subclasses C I and C II (it may be, but not likely, that he did have some kind of a detailed draft table of the old Class A, which has not been found). On the other hand, he inserted the pages containing the rhythmic patterns of the melodies of Class B into Subclasses C II and C IV (new A II and CI), and also reorganized the order of some items and added supplements. This whole process can be fairly easily reconstructed on the basis of the order of the bifolios and pages, some of which were glued together, etc. The corrected table finally became so difficult to read and so confusing that a new copy seemed to be badly needed. This was started again by Ilona Rácz; as we know from the notes on the title page she got as far as the rhythmic patterns of the 14-syllable melodies in Class B under Bartók’s supervision, and she later continued and finished the work at Kodály’s request.

This third, and final version is presented in facsimile. As far as the quality (and size) of the paper is concerned, this manuscript is divided into three sections. There is a “fascicle” of folded sheets, which contains the rhythmic patterns of the entire Classes A and B and those of Subclasses C I and C II. The patterns of Subclass C III are written on a different kind of upright paper, and those of Subclass C IV are written on a third one, on a kind of a graph paper. The manuscript is basically written in ink for the most part, but occasionally at first, then from Class C more and more frequently, additional rhythms appear in pencil. (Writing these classes Ilona Rácz initially seems to have thought it sufficient to mark the stanzas with the number of syllables; it was only later that she added the actual rhythmic patterns.) For a while, Ilona Rácz put the number of the melody or melody-type next to the patterns in pencil. The majority of the verbal notes jotted down in pencil (sometimes a red or a blue pencil) next to the patterns are Kodály’s.